“We will frustrate the obvious political maneuvers of President Aquino to take over the Supreme Court and maintain his family’s control over Hacienda Luisita.” – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas welcomed the Supreme Court’s (SC) announcement that it will decide on the Hacienda Luisita issue once and for all next week. Court Administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the high court will lay down its final decision next week on the 4,915.75-hectare Hacienda Luisita during the SC’s regular en banc session to be held in Baguio City.
“The Filipino peasantry welcomes this announcement. This is a long overdue decision,” KMP spokesman Antonio Flores said. He described the SC’s plan to decide on the agrarian dispute before the Senate impeachment court as a “good tactical move by the judiciary against the executive’s political bullying.”
“A swift, favorable and pro-farmer decision on Hacienda Luisita is a pre-emptive strike against the Malacañang-led impeachment case. Any decision from the Senate, conviction or not, could be politically damaging to Aquino,” Flores said. “Obviously, an acquittal will be good for Corona. But a conviction of Corona after a decisive decision on Luisita will be seen by the people as a brazen political vengeance by Aquino and the Cojuangcos. Either way, Aquino loses the war.”
Should the SC reverse the November 22 decision, however, Flores said, the farmworkers of HLI “will continue to rely on their collective strength and determination to assert their rights over HLI .”
“We will frustrate the obvious political maneuvers of President Aquino to take over the Supreme Court and maintain his family’s control over Hacienda Luisita. Aquino is twisting the arms of the SC justices and forming them to give a second look on his relative’s appeal. We urge CJ Corona to spearhead efforts to close the book on this issue and give HLI to the farmworkers,” he said.
P5 billion ‘compensation’ for the Cojuangco-Aquinos ?
The farmer-workers of Hacienda Luisita led by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, in the meantime, slammed President Aquino anew for “tolerating” his family’s moves to demand for P5-P10 billion ($116 million to $232 million) compensation and put a roadblock against the farmworkers’ claim on the contested hacienda lands.
UMA secretary-general Rodel Mesa said Aquino should persuade his relatives to give up their unjust claims to the land.
“He should also tell his relatives that they should stop their forum shopping that is obviously meant to disrupt the Supreme Court proceedings and derail the impending resolution finalizing a verdict on the ownership of Hacienda Luisita” he said.
He explained that it has been the farmworkers’ long standing policy that they will not pay anything for Hacienda Luisita’s distribution. “The essence of social justice will be rendered useless if we pay for the Cojuangco-Aquino’s caprice,” he said.
In a recent report that came out on ABS-CBNnews.com, a lawyer of the Cojuangcos said that his clients should be paid “at least P1 million ($23,256) per hectare or approximately P5 billion ($116 million) by the government as just compensation for distributing the sugar plantation.”
HLI spokesman Antonio Ligon, in an interview with reporter Jojo Malig, said the valuation was made by the Land bank of the Philippines and the Department of Agrarian Reform during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. He said the HLI is “not contesting the distribution of the sugar estate”, but it wants the SC to issue a clarification on the issue of just compensation.
Ligon went on to tell the reporter that the SC had already ruled previously that the president’s family should be paid P40,000 ($930) per hectare or just around P200 million ($4.65 million). He said the 1989 valuation goes against the Constitution and past decisions of the Supreme Court.
UMA bucked against the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s petition seeking a higher valuation for the contested land.
“The root of their discontent had been answered by Sereno’s opinion. This gave them an idea on how to skirt land distribution and press for the P10 billion ($232 million) compensation. The Cojuangco-Aquinos even used Sereno’s opinion as an excuse time and again to plan for their next legal tactic prolonging the land case until Chief Justice Corona is impeached. They want to be able to bargain with the next chief justice regarding the Hacienda Luisita case. They’re waiting for a chief justice who will take Aquino’s orders,”the group said in a statement.
The group also questioned the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council and the Office of the Solicitor General for their failure to pass separate resolutions supporting the distribution of Hacienda Luisita and opposing the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ appeal.
“The two agencies’ deafening silence on the Hacienda Luisita case is not a coincidence. They have their orders from President Aquino of course,” it said.
Aquino’s motives in the Corona impeachment case
Mesa said his group will exert all efforts to further expose and thwart what they see as Aquino’s underhanded moves to protect his relatives involved in the land dispute. “This is especially true since he failed to reverse the high court ruling ordering Hacienda Luisita’s distribution to its 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries last November 22, 2011,” he said.
In November last year, the high tribunal scrapped the stock distribution option scheme implemented in HLI and ordered the distribution of the lands to farm workers. In December, Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives led by the Liberal Party impeached Corona and after a week, the Cojuangcos filed a motion for clarification and consideration on the high court’s ruling junking the SDO scheme.
The peasant leader said Corona and the rest of the justices of the Supreme Court must expedite the dismissal of the HLI’s motion for clarification and reconsideration so that it could move on the next process of resolving with finality the hacienda’s turnover to the farmworkers.